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Polish people's referendum, 1946

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of

The People's Referendum (

  • Davies, Norman, 1982 and several reprints. God's Playground. 2 vols. New York: Columbia Univ. Press. ISBN 0-231-05353-3 and ISBN 0-231-05351-7
  • M.Turlejska, Zapis pierwszej dekady, 1945-1954
  • POLSKA. HISTORIA Article in Polish PWN Encyclopedia, online version. Accessed on 11 July 2005. Polish language.
  • Nikita Petrov, “The Role of the MGB of USSR in the Sovietization of Poland: the Referendum and Sejm Elections in 1946-1947 ([2])

Further reading

  1. ^ a b Nohlen, D & Stöver, P (2010) Elections in Europe: A data handbook, p1475 ISBN 978-3-8329-5609-7
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i (Polish) Referendum ludowe, WIEM Encyklopedia, retrieved in 4 December 2009
  3. ^ a b c (Polish), Maciej Korkuć, Wybory 1947 – mit założycielski komunizmu: Sfałszowane wybory – 19 stycznia 1947 roku. IPN Kraków, also available in „Biuletynie Instytutu Pamięci Narodowej” nr 1-2/2007
  4. ^ "You Cannot Shoot Us All", Time Magazine, June 17, 1946
  5. ^ "It is Forbidden", Time Magazine, July 08, 1946
  6. ^ Czesław Osękowski Referendum 30 czerwca 1946 roku w Polsce, Wydawnictwo Sejmowe, 2000, ISBN 83-7059-459-X


Materials published after the communists lost power in Poland in 1989 showed that only the third question received a majority of votes in favor. For the first question, "yes" was chosen by 26.9% voters. For the second question, 42% chose "yes". For the third question, 66.9% chose "yes".[6] Secret documents from the PPR show that they believed 27% of respondents had voted yes for all three questions. The official results indicated this figure was 68%.

Following the referendum, the Allies called for democratic elections. However, the 1947 elections were "completely manipulated".[1]


Choice Votes %
For 10,534,697 91.4
Against 995,854 8.6
Invalid/blank votes 327,435
Total 11,857,986 100
Registered voters/turnout 13,160,451 90.1
Source: Nohlen & Stöver

Question III

Choice Votes %
For 8,896,105 77.2
Against 2,634,446 22.8
Invalid/blank votes 327,435
Total 11,857,986 100
Registered voters/turnout 13,160,451 90.1
Source: Nohlen & Stöver

Question II

Choice Votes %
For 7,844,522 68.0
Against 3,686,029 32.0
Invalid/blank votes 327,435
Total 11,857,986 100
Registered voters/turnout 13,160,451 90.1
Source: Nohlen & Stöver

Question I

In Kraków, where the opposition managed to ensure a fair vote, the "no" results were: 84%, 59% and 30% for all three questions.[2] PSL, which was able to obtain real records for approximately 48% of the voting districts, estimated that a "yes" for all three questions was chosen by 16.7% of respondents.[2] Despite the protests of the opposition, led by Stanisław Mikołajczyk, and representatives of the United Kingdom and United States, the results were declared free and fair by the government.

However, the official results were far removed from the actual results since the vote had been seriously compromised by the communists and their supporters. The communists, who already de facto controlled much of the government and had the backing of the military (both the Polish Wojsko Ludowe and Soviet Red Army), used the police (Milicja Obywatelska) and the secret services (Urząd Bezpieczeństwa) to threaten, assault and even murder opposition activists, switch real ballots for false ones, stuff ballot boxes with false votes, consider blank ballots as “yes” votes, destroy votes not in favour of all or any of the three questions or simply falsify votes.[2][3] Voting in the army was done on command and without secrecy.[4][5] The falsification was overseen, just like the later Polish legislative election, 1947, by Soviet experts like Aron Palkin and Semyon Davydov, both high-ranking officers from the Soviet Ministry for State Security.[3]

The official results, published on 12 July 1946, showed that from a population of 13,160,451 eligible voters, 90.1% or 11,857,986 had taken part in the referendum. Of these, 11,530,551 or 97.2% were counted as valid. On the first question, 68% of voters chose "yes". On the second question, 77.2% voted "yes". On the third question, 91.4% voted "yes".[2]

Referendum results


Parties of the pro-communist Democratic Bloc, (the Polish Workers' Party (PPR), Socialist Party, Democratic Party, and People's Party) campaigned heavily in favor of "Three Times Yes", while non-communist parties advocated various other combinations; hence the referendum was seen as unofficially deciding whether the Polish citizenry supported or opposed communism.[2][3] The Polish People's Party (PSL) and Labor Party, which realized what was really at stake in the vote, namely Polish independence and the future of the country, advocated voting "no" on the first question,[2] despite the fact that it had been opposed to the Senate's existence since before the war. The majority of PSL political support was in rural areas, among people who supported agricultural reform, so the party found it impossible to advocate voting "no" on the second question. Nonetheless, the party's opposition to the first question was used by the communists to declare the more liberal PSL activists "traitors". Catholic groups supported "no" on the first question, "yes" on the third, and left the second to voters individual preferences.[2] The Wolność i Niezawisłość party argued against the first two questions only, while the National Armed Forces advocated a "no" for all three questions, as a sign of protest against the annexation of the eastern territories of Poland (known as the Kresy) by the Soviet Union.[2]


  1. Are you in favor of abolishing the Senate?
  2. Do you want consolidation, in the future constitution of the economic system founded on agricultural reform and the nationalisation of basic national industries, including the preservation of the statutory rights of private enterprise?
  3. Do you want consolidation of the western border of the Polish State on the Baltic, Oder river and Lusatian Neisse? [2]

The referendum comprised three questions:



  • Questions 1
  • Campaign 2
  • Results 3
    • Question I 3.1
    • Question II 3.2
    • Question III 3.3
  • Aftermath 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6


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