In contrast to the voluminous literature dealing with the post-communist transformation, much less attention has been paid to the circumstances that led to the communist collapse. The purpose of this paper is to redress the imbalance by trying to examine the socio-political and economic situation on the eve of the changeover and to determine which factors, taken collectively, produced a trigger which ignited the implosion of 1989. The focus will be on Poland, the country which—it is generally agreed—was the first one to launch the process of change and to initiate the “domino effect” which ultimately affected the entire region.

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