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Adam Michnik in Wrocław, March 2006

Adam Michnik (born 17 October 1946 as Szechter, Warsaw, Poland) is the editor-in-chief of Gazeta Wyborcza, where he sometimes writes under the pen-names of Andrzej Zagozda or Andrzej Jagodziński. In 1966-1989 he was one of the leading organizers of the illegal, democratic opposition in Poland. A historian, essayist, and political commentator, he is the recipient of laureate of many awards, including a Knight of the Legion of Honour and European of the Year.



Adam Michnik was born to Ozjasz (Uzziah) Szechter, the first secretary of the Communist Party of Western Ukraine and his wife Helena (née Michnik), a historian, children's book writer and Communist. (Michnik's parents happened to be of Jewish and non-Jewish descent, respectively. Michnik describes himself as a Pole of Jewish origins.[1][2]) His half brother, Stefan Michnik, was a judge in the 1950s, during the period of Stalinism and currently resides in Sweden; he publicly admitted passing death sentences on alleged spies, such as major Zefiryn Machalla.


While attending primary school, he was an active member of Walter’s Troop in Polish Scouting Association (ZHP), which was led by Jacek Kuroń. During secondary school, the Walter’s Troop was banned, and he began to participate at meetings of Klub Krzywego Koła (Club of the Crooked Circle). After its closing in 1962, with the encouragement from Jan Józef Lipski and under Adam Schaff’s protection, he founded a discussion club Hunters of Contradiction Club (Klub Poszukiwaczy Sprzeczności). Disappointed with life in the People's Republic of Poland, young people were discussing ways to change it. They read and analyzed the classical texts of leftist thinkers.

In 1964 he began studying history at Warsaw University. A year later he was suspended because he disseminated an open letter to the members of Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR) among his school mates. Its authors, Jacek Kuroń and Karol Modzelewski appealed to begin repairing the political system in Poland. In 1966 he was suspended for the second time for organizing a discussion meeting with Leszek Kołakowski, who was expelled from the PZPR several weeks earlier, for criticizing its leaders. In 1965, the PZPR forbade his texts to be printed. Since that time he was writing under a pseudonym to several newspapers, for example: “Życie Gospodarcze”, Więź”, “Literatura”.

In March 1968 he was expelled from the University for his activities during 1968 Polish political crisis, that began after censors forbade an adaptation of Mickiewicz’s “Dziady” to be performed in the National Theatre. He was arrested, and sentenced to three years imprisonment for his “acts of hooliganism”, chiefly for his participation in the March Events. In 1969, he was released from prison under an amnesty, but he was forbidden to continue his studies. Not until the middle of the 1970s was he allowed to continue his studies of history, which he finished at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań.


After he was released from prison, he worked for two years as a welder at the Róża Luxemburg (Rosa Luxemburg) Industrial Plant and then, on the recommendation of Jacek Kuroń, he became private secretary to Antoni Słonimski.

In 1976-1977 he lived in Paris. After he returned to Poland, he got involved in the activity of Workers' Defence Committee (KOR), which had already existed for a couple of months. It was one of the best known opposition organizations of the 70’s. He became one of the most active opposition activists and also one of the supporters of the Society for Educational Courses (Towarzystwo Kursów Naukowych).

Between 1977 and 1989, he was the editor or co-editor of underground newspapers published illegally, samizdat: „Biuletyn Informacyjny”, „Zapis”, „Krytyka”. He was also a member of the management of one of the biggest underground publishers: NOWa.

In years 1980-1989 he was an adviser to both the Independent Self-governing Trade Union "Solidarity" (NSZZ „Solidarność”) in the Mazovia Region and to Foundry Workers Committee of “Solidarity”.

When martial law was declared, in December 1981, he was at first an internee, but when he refused to sign, a ”loyalty oath” and assent to voluntarily leave the country, he was jailed and accused of an “attempt to overthrow socialism”. He was in jail without a verdict until 1984, because the prosecutor’s office prolonged the trial on purpose.

Adam Michnik demanded to end or dismiss his case and he wanted to be granted a status of a political prisoner, so he went on a hunger strike in jail. In 1984 he was released from jail, under an amnesty.

He took part in an attempt to organize a strike in Gdańsk Shipyard. As a result, he was again arrested in 1985 and this time sentenced to 3 years imprisonment. He was released in the next year again under the amnesty.

Activity since 1989

In 1988 he became an adviser of Lech Wałęsa’s informal Coordination Committee, and later he became a member of the Solidarity Citizens' Committee. He took an active part in planning and preliminary negotiations for the Round Table Talks in 1989, in which he also participated. Adam Michnik inspired and collaborated with the editors of the Ulam Quarterly prior to 1989 that journal pioneered the world wide web in the USA. After the Round Table Talks, Lech Wałęsa told him to organize a big Polish national daily, which was supposed to be an ‘organ’ of the Solidarity Citizens' Committee, before the upcoming elections. This newspaper, under the Round Table agreement, was „Gazeta Wyborcza” ("Election Newspaper"), because it was supposed to appear till the end of the parliamentary election in 1989. After organizing this newspaper on the basis of journalists who worked in the „Biuletyn Informacyjny”, Adam Michnik became its editor-in-chief. In the elections to the Contract Sejm on 4 June 1989 he became a Member of Parliament from Lech Wałęsa’s Solidarity Citizens' Committee electoral register, as a candidate for the city of Bytom.

Between 12 April and 27 June 1990 Michnik together with Bogdan Kroll, director of the central archive Archiwum Akt Nowych, and historians Andrzej Ajnenkiel and Jerzy Holzer had access to the archives of the Polish Ministry of Internal Affairs (MSW). This group was called “Michnik’s Committee” and was brought into being by an initiative of the historian Henryk Samsonowicz. The result of three months work was a short official report which stated that archives are incomplete.

Both as a Member of Parliament and as editor of “Gazeta Wyborcza” he actively supported Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki’s government and his candidature in the presidential election campaign against Lech Wałęsa in 1990. After the break up of the Citizens’ Committee and Tadeusz Mazowiecki’s failure, Michnik halted his direct involvement in politics and did not run for a seat in the next parliamentary election, instead focusing on editorial and journalistic activities. Under his leadership, “Gazeta Wyborcza” was converted into a widely read and influential daily newspaper in Poland. On the basis of “Gazeta Wyborcza” assets Agora SA partnership came into existence. Currently (in May 2004) it is one of the biggest media concerns in Poland, administrating 11 titles monthly issued, portal, outdoor advertising AMS, and shares in several radio stations. Adam Michnik does not have any shares in Agora and does not hold any office headship, excluding head editor, which is unusual in economic field in Poland. Michnik’s shares are kept by Agora.

Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki in his expose in September 1989 used a term thick line which began new so-called thick line politic. He is proponent and advocate of this term. In “Gazeta Wyborcza” he used his personal influences to protect General Wojciech Jaruzelski and General Czesław Kiszczak against social- political- judicial clearing campaign that refers to different periods when they held party and civil functions in People’s Republic of Poland (PRL). He postulated for quick and efficient adjudication of brought penal actions and to stop press battle. Crucial role played a famous interview “Pożegnanie z bronią. Adam Michnik- Czesław Kiszczak.” by Agnieszka Kublik and Monika Olejnik which was published in “Gazeta Wyborcza” on 3 February 2001.

On 27 December 2002 Adam Michnik and Paweł Smoleński made so-called “Rywin affair” public and the inner history was supposed to be solved by specially called select committee.

In autumn 2004 due to health problems (he suffered from tuberculosis) he resigned from active participation in editing “Gazeta Wyborcza” and passed his duties to editorial colleague Helena Łuczywo.

On the anniversary of the introduction of martial law, on 13 December 2005, Michnik delivered exposition at the University of Warsaw (article published in "Gazeta Wyborcza") in which he appealed to president Lech Kaczyński for statutory abolition for those who were responsible for the martial law. The article was a response to information about instituting an inquiry by Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) against General Jaruzelski. Michnik appealed about abolition even earlier- in 1991 (during the exposition on Faculty of Law at University of Maria Curie- Skłodowska in Lublin (UMCS), "Gazeta w Lublinie" 11-12-1991) and also in 2001 in the article "Stan wojenny 20 lat później" ("Gazeta Wyborcza" 12 December 2001).

In October 2006 recordings of conversations (that took place in September 2006) between Michnik and a well known businessman Aleksander Gudzowaty have been revealed. The conversations have been recorded behind the back of both participants by Gudzowaty’s security. The businessman has accused journalists of Gazeta Wyborcza of being economical with the truth in their articles describing enterprises of Aleksander Gudzowaty and his company “Bartimpex” in the power industry (the criticism concerned mainly Andrzej Kublik and Witold Gadomski.)

The case of revealed conversations arouse controversy among some journalists, mostly steaming form the vulgar language used by both interlocutors, from the announcements made by Michnik concerning punishing the two reporters pointed out by Gudzowaty and revealing that the information of Gazeta Wyborcza come for the secret service. Part of the journalistic milieu (including the columnists of Gazeta Wyborcza) defended Michnik, stating that they did not find the recorded conversations scandalous. Adam Michnik in his commentary in Gazeta Wyborcza criticized the method used to reveal the tapes and compared it to the methods used by KGB. He also denied alleged work of Gazeta Wyborcza for the secret service and its participation in the conspiracy aimed at Aleksander Gudzowaty. Both the columnists of Gazeta Wyborcza and some other journalists claim that the case of “Gudzowaty’s tapes” is exaggerated. According to others it was revealed on purpose, to cover another scandal, that is the revealing of Renata Beger’s recordings. He is a member of Association of Polish Writers and Council on Foreign Relations.

Awards and distinctions

  • Polcul Foundation Award(1980)
  • Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award(1986)
  • Cena Pelikán 2007 (Czech Republic, Listy)
  • Prize winner of Prix de la Liberte of the French PEN-Club (1988)
  • Europe’s Man of the Year (1989) – prize awarded by the magazine La Vie
  • Shofar Award (1991) – prize awarded by National Jewish Committee on Scouting
  • The prize of the Association of European Journalists (1995)
  • Imre Nagy’s medal
  • OSCE Prize for Democracy and Journalism (May 1996)
  • Order of Bernardo O’Higgins (Chile, 1998)
  • One of 50 people on the list of ”50 Press Freedom Heroes” by the International Press Institute
  • Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (2001)
  • Erasmus Prize (Netherlands, 2001)
  • PhD Honoris Causa in New School for Social Research, University of Minnesota, Connecticut College, University of Michigan
  • French Legion of Honor ( France, 2003)
  • Listed by “Financial Times” as one of the 20 most influential journalists in the world.
  • Professor of Kiev-Mohylan Academy; 1 September 2006.
  • Dan David Prize award 2006
  • Patron of the Media Legal Defence Initiative




  • Letters from Freedom: Post-Cold War Realities and Perspectives, translated by Jane Cave, 1998. (ISBN 0-520-21759-4)
  • Church and the Left, (David Ost, editor), 1992. (ISBN 0-226-52424-8)
  • Letters from Prison and Other Essays, translated by Maya Latynski, 1986. (ISBN 0-520-05371-0)



  • “An Open Letter to International Public Opinion”. Telos 54 (Winter 1982-83). New York: Telos Press.


  1. ^ (Polish) [1] Polish memories - Jewish memories, article by A. Michnik, "Tygodnik Powszechny" No. 29, 16 July 1995.
  2. ^

External links


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