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Wojciech Witold Jaruzelski

(b. 1923) Polish general and statesman, Prime Minister 1981–5


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(b. 6 July 1923).

Prime Minister of Poland 1981–5; First Secretary of the Polish Communist Party 1981–9; President 1989–90 Born in Kurów, he fought in World War II and thereafter stayed in the Polish army. He joined the Communist Party in 1947, and by 1956 had advanced to become Poland's youngest general. Jaruzelski became Chief of Staff in 1965, and served as Minister of Defence, 1968–83.

Jaruzelski was appointed Prime Minister as a hardliner who could deal with the growing Solidarność movement. He suppressed the latter by force and imprisoned many of its leaders. When it became evident that popular discontent was too strong to be ignored forever, he entered into talks with Solidarność and thus ensured a peaceful transition to democracy. It is still not clear whether he declared martial law in December 1981 out of a genuine desire to suppress the movement, or to forestall an imminent invasion by the Soviet army whose repression would have been worse. After years of deliberation, on 13 February 1996 a parliamentary committee recommended that he should not face prosecution for declaring martial law. However, in 2001 he was charged for his role in the violent suppression of workers' unrests in 1970, in which forty-four workers were killed.

Subjects: Politics — Contemporary History (Post 1945).


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