Skip to content
Placeholder image for when a portrait image is not available

Jaruzelski, W. (Wojciech) 1923- 2014

Wojciech Witold Jaruzelski was a communist Polish political and military leader. He served as the party's national secretary and prime minister form 1981-1990.

Biography

Placeholder image for when a portrait image is not available

An officer in the Polish Army, he 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), of which Central Committee he became a member in 1964.

In 1968 he was heavily involved in the "cleansing" of the Polish army due to Moczar's anti-Semitic campaign. In the same year, he led the invasion of Czechoslovakia. In 1970 he was involved in the plot against Wladyslaw Gomulka, and probably took part in organization of the massacre in the coastal cities of Gdansk, Gdynia, Elblag and Szczecin.

Jaruzelski became the party's national secretary and prime minister in 1981, when Lech Walesa's movement (Solidarity) was starting to earn national and external popularity. The Soviet Union became more and more concerned and threatened with invasion - a very credible threat, as they had invaded Afghanistan two years before.

The policies of Mikhail Gorbachev also stipulated political reform in Poland. By the close of the 10th plenary session in December 1988, the Communist Party had decided to broach leaders of Solidarity for talks. These talks, which became known as the "roundtable talks," with 13 working groups in 94 sessions from February 6 to April 15, radically altered the shape of the Polish government and society. The talks resulted in an agreement in which real political power was vested 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 parliament), 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," Lech Wałęsa refused. 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. Subsequently, Jaruzelski has faced charges for a number of actions he committed while he was defense minister during the communist period.

Popular Documents

October 7, 1977

Report on Visits to the Mongolian People's Republic and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea

In September 1977, W. Jaruzelski  visited Mongolia and the DPRK. While in North Korea, Jaruzelski met with President Kim Il Sung and the Minister of National Defense O Jin U.  Although Jaruzelski did make several critical comments about the DPRK in his secret post-trip report, he still spoke in highly favorable terms about the country and generally recommended that Poland strengthen its relations with North Korea. 

Jaruzelsk's report also includes commentary on China's relations with both Mongolia and the DPRK.

November 21, 1981

CPSU CC Politburo Protocol (extract) and Text of Oral Message from Brezhnev to Jaruzelski

January 1, 1983

Central Intelligence Agency, 'Jaruzelski's Attitude, Behavior, and Style'

Details Jaruzelski's personal habits, style, and evolving political views.

August 23, 1988

Letter, Acting Minister of State Security of the DPRK Kim Yong-ryong to Comrade Czesław Kiszczak, Minister of Internal Affairs

Kim Yong-ryong asks whether the North Korean Ministry of State Security may send specialists to Poland for counterintelligence training ahead of the 13th World Youth and Students Festival.

October 10, 1986

Minutes of the Visit of a Delegation from the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the People’s Republic of Poland (PRL) in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea

Paek Hak-rim suggests stepping up cooperation between North Korea and Poland in the fields of science, technology, and firefighting, as well as continuing exchange visits to share experiences in maintaining public order and combating crime. Kim Yong-ryong also suggests that information exchanges and technical cooperation be enhanced.