THE IMPACT OF A POLISH POPE ON THE USSR (RP M 78-10395)

Created: 10/19/1978

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MEMORANDUM

tpoSSR SUBJECT: The impact ox

Key Judgement

elevation of the Arohbiehop of Poland'e former royal capital and anoiant culturalthe Papacy will undoubtedly provs'^extremelyto Hosaow, if only because of the responsiveness hie papacy ie likely to evoke in East European,conmuniet eoeietiee. The oelectionolieh Pope, which reflects the uniquely vital Polish church, will make even more difficult Hoecow'a :traditional attempts to bind culturally Western Poland more closely, to he East, to integrate the Polee more closelyoviet-dominated bilateral and multilateral system of alliances, and to footer greater social and political diecipline in Poland by consolidating the power of the Polieh communist party. Beoauee of the impaot of John Paul II, particularly his impaert on Polieh nationaliem, the Soviets will now find it even more difficult to chock and to counter Poland'e instinctive, cultural, cud political gravitation to the Uoet.

Whon the USSR faces its so-called empire in East Europe, iteriously unstable area where problems of nationalism have caused major rifto with the Soviet Union (Yugoslavia8 and Albania, significant policy deviations with the Romaniano, and differences amongact states over such disputed areas as Macedonia/ nessarabia, and Transylvania. Tho Soviets have never been able to cope successfully with the legacy of Polish nationalism,Polish opposition to foreign occupiers and aliensystems. Tho origin of the state itself is linked to the

This memorandum wae prepared in the Office of Regional and Political Analysio. Comment,re weloome and may be addressed to

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illeniumking of Poland converted to Roman Catholicism and turnedback on Kiayan Rub. The election.of Cardinal tfojtyla aa pope wl,ll give atremendous boost to this formidable national pride and thereby make it more difficult for the regime to ignore the church's wishes. '!

A Polish pope will in particularong-term impactariety of internal issues between church and state that will ultimately demandttention. Polish Catholicp have been treated as second-class citizens by the party and have always looked to the churcholitical alternative.1 Now the church can be expectedstiffen its position on,such issues as establishingegal status of the Roman Catholic church, permitting greater access to the media for church officials and re-ligous services, and allowing an uncensored church press. The Pope's support for human rights issues as well as the emphasis by the Polish Catholic church on the country's cultural heritage could increase problems for Edward Gierek as well as the potential for mass discontent. Gierek's reaction to these problems will be watched closely inarsaw Pact cpaital, but none so closely as Moscow.

Tho elevation of the Cardinal to the papacy also marks an irreversible setback for Mc*cow'e efforts since the end of WWII to weaken the various connections between the East European branches of the Catholic Church and Rome, and.to create in,their place docile national churches. olish pope not only buttresses the position of the Polish church aa an alternate source of power but lends verisimilitude to the Polish view that only the church genuinely represents Polish national interests. Soviet actions in the past have already implicitly acknowledged that tho neutrality of the church is essential to rule Poland, and Soviet leaders presumably must realize that the bargaining position of the churchariety of issues has now been enhanced. The inability of the Poles to collectivize agriculture, for example, is ineflection of the power of theupport for an independent peasantry.

The Soviets have in recent years been well aware of the need for caution imposed on their dealings with Warsaw due to Poland's intractable domestic economic and foreign *rade problems and to the fact that Polandigher level of social tension than that of any other East European country. In fact, Moscow's careful reBponae to the worker riots in Poland06 revealed that its ultimate concern was to ensure that political stability reigned in Poland. As long as Poland's nationalistic feelings do not give vent to overtly anti-Soviet actions, Moscow is likely to continue

to show caution in response to any disruptive effects of Poland's societal and intellectual tensions. If this occurs, Gierek will probably have increased bargaining leverage in getting Soviet cooperation in responding to issues between the party and tho

Both the Church and the Kremlin, moreover,the popular Polish view that thore is no viableto what have thus far been Gierek*s. cautioushandling Poland's domestic and social problems. Inexample, the Soviets supported his carefulriots against the regime; last year, the churchefforts to maintain social oeace in the country. Interm, therefore, there should be no crisis inrelationsesult of Wojtyla's elevation to

Over the long run, however, the electionolish pope will contribute to an increase in nationalism in East Europe and will raise the consciousness of Orthodox churches and churchmen in the area. East European perceptions of Moscow's handling of any domestic crisis that results will be significant. Intellectual dissent in Poland andis already increasing and dissident groups will press the outer limits of permitted expression if the Soviets aro perceived as too conciliatory. Hungary's quiet and careful experimentation in economic reform would also be enhanced by any signs of Soviet willingness to allowfreedom in Poland. evival of the Protestant church in East Germany is already underway.

Indeed, the ripple effect onf the East European countriesesult of any increase of Polish nationalism will cause the Soviet [leadership to pay close attention to each sign of responniveneasolish papacy in communist societies. The selectionope from Poland, moreover, adds to the problems of an aged and tired leadership in the Kremlin that is already facing its own pre-succession problems. Finally, the Soviets will be especially alert to any fallout from the Pope's election because the current Chinese leadership is particularly anxious to exploit anv signsevival in East European nationalism and any signs of Soviet vacillation in responding to the challenge ofevival.

The potential spillover effect of East Europeanto tho USSR is nlao considerable, particularly in the Ukraine where the Uniato Church has many adhoronts, in Byelorussia which contains former Polish territories that were once heavily Catholic, and in the Baltic countries where there are several million Catholics. The Soviets have always

TSflTIAL

been more hostile toward Catholicism than toward officially recognized and relatively subservient churches, ouch as the Russian Orthodox, because of the Western orientation of the Catholics and their susceptibility on Soviet borders to outside influence. olish pope will reinvigorato the Catholic faith in these areas and laay embolden Catholic dissidents to engage in more vigorous protest activities. These Issues were presumably discussedeeting between Ukrainian Pirst Secretary Shcherbitsky and the Polishto the USSReeting in Kiev onctober, only one day after the Pope's election.

If nothingolish papacy provides resonance to the activities of the Lithuanian Catholic dissidents, whose samizdatChronicle of the Lithuanian Catholicalready one of the most vital underground journals'" in the USSR. Dissent in Lithuania isroduct of religious-national sentiment, and the two most important external influences on Lithuania are the Catholic church and Poland. For several centuries Poland and Lithuania were unitedingle state and the Lithuanian capital stillizable Polish minority.

The impactolish papacy on the Ukraine will depend largely on the position of the new pope toward the Uniate church. Unlike the Catholic church in Lithuania, whichrecarious legal status, the Uniate church was formally outlawed after the war. ondition for better Soviet-Vatican relations, Moscow has unsuccessfully ii.sisted on Rome's recognition of the liquidation of the Uniate church. Such recognition wouldarticularly difficult decisionolinh pope.

On balance, it willong period of time for these problems to sort'themselves out, but the Soviet leadership is probably already anxious about how to cope with theimpactolish papacy on East European nationalism cz well as such derivative issues as Eurocommunism and soviet dissidence. Having successfully coexistedommunist regime in Poland, the new Pope will have more than symbolic impact on those communist parties in such heavily Catholic countries as Italy, France, and Spain. The communists in these countries may now feel more free to stress their independence from Moscow. Conversely, it will be moro .difficult for such parties as the Christian Democrats in Italy to use the influence of the Church against these communist portios. The long-range problems are thuo far different from thoee that have facod previoua Soviet regimes and once led Stalin to rhetorically but derisively dismiss the Impact of the Vatican by asking "how many divisions has tho Pope7-

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