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Wojciech Jaruzelski


Wojciech Witold Jaruzelski (pronounced: ) (born July 6, 1923 in Kurów) is a Polish statesman, former Communist political and military leader. He served as Prime Minister from 1981 to 1985, head of the Polish Council of State from 1985 to 1989, and President from 1989 to 1990.

Military career

Jaruzelski was born into a family of Polish gentry. He was raised on the family estate near Wysokie (in the vicinity of Białystok) and later in the Warsaw Catholic boarding school of Bielany.

After the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact when he was a teenager, his family fled to Lithuania. Later they were deported to the Asian part of the Soviet Union, where his father died at Biysk of lack of medical treatment. When the Soviets began building up Polish army units, Jaruzelski was among the first to join. At the end of World War II he participated in the Battle of Berlin.

As an officer of the Ludowe Wojsko Polskie, Jaruzelski was trained at the Polish Higher Infantry School and the General Staff Academy, and joined the Polish United Workers' Party (the former Polish Communist Party). In the first post-war years, he was among the military fighting the Polish anti-communist guerrillas ("cursed soldiers") in the Świętokrzyskie region.

He quickly rose in the military and Party, becoming a member of the Central Committee in 1964. In 1968, he was named the Minister of Defense. In the same year, he was heavily involved in the "cleansing" of the Polish army as part of Mieczysław Moczar's anti-semitic campaign. (In fact, he had close links to Moczar; he was best man at Moczar's second wedding, which does not appear in Jaruzelski's autobiographical works).

In 1968, during the Prague Spring, he led the Polish military participation in the invasion of Czechoslovakia.

In 1970, he was involved in the plot against Władysław Gomułka, which led to the appointment of Edward Gierek as Communist Party General Secretary. He took part in organizing the suppression of striking workers, which led to massacres in the coastal cities of Gdańsk, Gdynia, Elbląg and Szczecin.

Leader of the Polish military government

Jaruzelski became the party's General Secretary and Prime Minister in 1981, when Lech Wałęsa's Solidarity movement was starting to gain popularity, both within Poland and abroad. On December 13 1981, Jaruzelski imposed martial law in Poland.

According to his explanation, this action was intended to prevent a threat of Soviet invasion. Lawyers hold that the circumstances of the martial law were even in violation of the communist constitution. Most former opposition members argue that it was merely an action by the Polish communist regime to retain power and strangle the newly born and developing civil society.

Moreover, historical evidence released under Russian President Boris Yeltsin has been brought to light indicating that the Soviet Union did not plan to invade Poland; in fact, the Soviets strictly rejected Jaruzelski's request for military help in 1981, leaving the Solidarity "problem" to be sorted out by the Polish government. This question, as well as many other facts about Poland in the years 1945-1989, are presently under the investigation of government historians at the Institute of National Remembrance (Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, IPN), whose publications reveal facts from the communist-era archives.

Political reforms and presidency

The policies of Mikhail Gorbachev also stimulated political reform in Poland. By the close of the tenth plenary session in December 1988, the Communist Party was forced, after strikes, to approach leaders of Solidarity for talks.

From February 6 to April 15, 1989, talks of 13 working groups in 94 sessions, which became known as the Round-Table negotiations, radically altered the shape of the Polish government and society. The talks resulted in an agreement to vest political power in a newly created bicameral legislature and in a President who would be the chief executive. Solidarity was legalized. After the elections, the communists, who were guaranteed 65 percent of the seats in the Sejm (the lower house), did not win a majority, and Solidarity-backed candidates won 99 out of 100 freely contested seats in the Senate. Jaruzelski, whose name was the only one the Communist Party allowed on the ballot for the presidency, won by just one vote in the National Assembly.

Although Jaruzelski tried to persuade Solidarity to join the communists in a "grand coalition," Wałęsa refused, saying that Solidarity's goal was to liberate Poland from Communist-Soviet oppression. Jaruzelski resigned as General Secretary of the Communist Party but found he was forced to come to terms with a government formed by Solidarity.

In 1990, Jaruzelski resigned as Poland's leader and was succeeded by Wałęsa in December. Subsequently, Jaruzelski faced charges for a number of actions such as murder that he committed while he was Defense Minister during the Communist period.

On January 31, 1991, General Jaruzelski retired from the army service.

After retirement

In May 2005, Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded a medal commemorating 60th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany to Jaruzelski. Other former leaders awarded the medal include Romania's former King Michael I.

Czech President Václav Klaus criticized this step, claiming that Jaruzelski is a symbol of the Warsaw Pact troops' invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Jaruzelski said that he had apologised and that the decision on the August 1968 invasion had been a great "political and moral mistake".

On March 28, 2006, Jaruzelski was awarded a Siberian Exiles Cross by Polish President Lech Kaczyński. However, after making this fact public Kaczyński claimed that this was a mistake and blamed the bureaucracy for giving him a document containing 1293 names without notifying him of Jaruzelski's presence within it. After this statement Jaruzelski returned the cross.

On March 31, 2006, the IPN charged him with committing Communist crimes, mainly the creation of a criminal military organisation with the aim of conducting crimes (mostly concerned with the illegal imprisonment of people). The second charge involves the incitement of state ministers to commit acts beyond their competence. Jaruzelski has avoided most court appearances citing poor health.

The Polish Ministry of Defence is currently engaged in a process that would allow it to deny Jaruzelski any military pension he currently receives.

See also


External links

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