Cite
 

Jaruzelski, Wojciech Witold

Jaruzelski, Wojciech Witold vōĭ´chĕkh vē´tōld yäro͞ozĕl´o͞oskē [key], 1923–2014, Polish military and political leader. His family fled the 1939 German invasion to Lithuania, and were deported to Siberia after Russia invaded the Baltic States. He subsequently fought in World War II in Polish infantry aligned with the Red Army, became a general in 1956, and began his rise in the Communist party in 1960. He was elected to Poland's parliament the following year, and later became minister of defense (1968–83) and a full general (1973).

During the 1981 crisis involving the trade union Solidarity , Jaruzelski became prime minister and then party leader. Known as a moderate, he sought a compromise but finally ordered a military crackdown, placed Poland under martial law (Dec., 1981), outlawed Solidarity, and ordered the arrest of Solidarity leaders, including Lech Wałęsa . By the end of 1982, Solidarity had been suppressed martial law was lifted, and Wałęsa was released.

In 1987, Jaruzelski found his attempts at economic reform thwarted by Solidarity, and subsequently a series of crippling nationwide strikes forced him to open a dialogue with Solidarity. In Apr., 1989, Solidarity was legalized and granted the right to campaign for the upcoming elections. In June, Solidarity members won almost every seat in the upper house of the parliament, but the party was restricted to competing for only 35% of the seats in the lower house, all of which they won. The restriction allowed Jaruzelski to be elected president by a one-vote margin in the national assembly. Unable to maintain a Communist-led government, however, he was forced in September to agree to a Solidarity prime minister. Jaruzelski was succeeded as president by Wałęsa in Dec., 1990.

In 1993, Jaruzelski was charged with criminal conduct in a 1970 incident in which demonstrating workers were killed after he allegedly ordered soldiers to fire on them, but court proceedings, which began in 1996, became entangled in disputes and delays. Additional criminal charges against him, relating to the imposition of martial law and internment of Solidarity leaders and others, were filed in 2006 trial on those charges began in 2008 but was suspended in 2011 because of illness.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Polish History: Biographies

Browse by Subject

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.