Polish Culture and Society: Banned Books in Communist Poland, 1945-1989

This guide will help you find information about Poland, its culture, history, traditions and life in modern society

Book Exhibit: Banned Books in Communist Poland, 1945-1989


In 1946 Polish communist government established an institution of censorship.   The Head Office for the Control of Press, Publications and Entertainment (GUKPPiW) existed for over forty years and had a damaging effect on many aspects of Polish social and intellectual life. Subjects that were banned from an OPEN discussion ranged from economic situation, atmosphere in the country, everyday life, to political history of the pre-WWII Poland, even the history of the communist movement.  There was a total ban on the Katyń crime and the Polish-Russian war of 1920.  Tens of authors were prevented from publishing their books in Poland, tens were forced to change their texts and many decided to pull out from the literary profession all together or wrote only “for the drawer in the desks”.  Finally, after the fall of communism in Poland in 1989, the infamous GUKPPiW was officially eliminated in 1990 by the decision of the Polish Parliament.

List of Books

Banned Books in Communist Poland 1945-1989, Book Exhibit

International Area Studies

Watson Library October, 2012- January 2013

List of Books 

Czarna księga cenzury PRL. (1977). Londyn: Aneks. 

Hłasko, M. (1961). Next stop--paradise and The graveyard: Two novels. London: Heinemann.

Konwicki, T. (1977). Kompleks polski: Powieść. London: Index on Censorship.

Maurer, J. (1970). Liga ocalałych. Londyn: Nakładem Polskiej Fundacji Kulturalnej.

Miłosz, C. (1980). Dolina Issy (4th ed.). Paryż: Instytut Literacki.

Orłoś, K. (1985). Przechowalnia: Powieść. London: Puls Publications.

Tyrmand, L. (1959). The seven long voyages. London: M. Joseph.

Descriptive Labels

Czarna Księga Cenzury PRL (The Black Book of Polish Censorship) published by ANEKS, 1977

This book was compiled by a former censor Tomasz Strzyżewski, who defected from Poland in 1977 with documents issued by the GUKPPiW (Head Office for the Control of Press, Publications and Entertainment).  The documents show secret directives given to publishers and TV and radio broadcasters as to what could and could not be published or broadcast.  This book is available at KU libraries also in English under the title “The Black Book of Polish Censorship.”

Next Stop – Paradise and the Graveyard (Następny do Raju) by Marek Hłasko, 1961

This novel was not permitted to be published in Poland until after the fall of communism.  Marek Hłasko was a symbol of the generation of young, talented, nonconformist writers who were independent-minded and unpredictable. Polish authorities did not want his novels to be easily available. His works were published by the Polish émigré center in Paris, France, translated into many other languages and published in numerous countries outside of Poland.

Kompleks polski (the Polish complex) by Tadeusz Konwicki, 1977

The author, discouraged by the intervention of censorship, decided to publish his novel independently from the government-run publishing houses.   He published it in a newly established literary journal “Zapis” (the Record) that was founded by the Committee for the Defense of Workers (KOR) and published “underground.”  Konwicki’s “Kompleks polski” was the first Polish novel released by the independent press in Poland.  Up to that time, all not-controlled by the government publications were published abroad.  Since then many underground publishing houses came to life in Poland.  At the end of 1980-ties there were as many as five hundred independent publishing houses.    

Liga Ocalałych by Jadwiga Maurer, 1970

KU’s own Professor Emerita of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Kansas was on the index of censorship in Poland. Her name is listed among 58 authors, mostly émigré, whose names were banned from discussions in the press, radio and television, except for short, critical (especially negative) references to their works.

Dolina Issy (The Issa Valey) by Czesław Miłosz, 1955

Dolina Issy and other works by this author were on the “index of censorship” in Communist Poland. The novel was finally published in Poland for the first time in 1981, almost 30 years after the first edition published in 1995 by Instytut Literacki in Paris, France. 

KU libraries have many works by Czesław Miłosz including the English translation of Dolina Issy (The Issa Valey)

Przechowalnia: powieść by Kazimierz Orłoś, 1985

Author Kazimierz Orłoś was not allowed to publish anything in Communist Poland. Instructions to publishers cited in “The Black Book of Polish Censorship” simply stated that “one should not publish any works by this author.”  Any references to this author or his works required approval by the GUKPPiW.


The Seven Long Voyages (Siedem Dalekich Rejsów) by Leopold Tyrmand, 1959

According to documents held in the Central Archives of Modern Records in Warsaw (Archiwum Akt Nowych), the Head Office for the Control of Press, Publications and Entertainment (GUKPPiW) denied permission to publish “The Seven Long Voyages” stating that “the book vilified the socio-political situation in Poland.”