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Bolesław Bierut


In office
February 5, 1947 – November 21, 1952
Prime Minister Józef Cyrankiewicz
Preceded by Himself as Chairman of the State National Council
(last title held by Ignacy Mościcki in 1939)
Succeeded by Aleksander Zawadzki as Chairman of the Council of State
(next title held by Wojciech Jaruzelski in 1989)

In office
December 31, 1944 – February 4, 1947
Prime Minister Edward Osóbka-Morawski
Preceded by Władysław Raczkiewicz as President in Exile
Succeeded by Himself as President of Poland

In office
December 22, 1948 – March 12, 1956
Preceded by Władysław Gomułka as Secretary of PWP
Succeeded by Edward Ochab as First Secretary

In office
November 21, 1952 – March 12, 1956
Preceded by Józef Cyrankiewicz
Succeeded by Józef Cyrankiewicz

Born April 18, 1892(1892-04-18)
Rury Jezuickie, now a part of Lublin, then Russian Empire, now Poland
Died March 12, 1956 (aged 63)
Moscow, Soviet Union
Political party Communist Party of Poland
Polish Worker's Party
Polish United Workers' Party
Spouse(s) Wanda Górska
Religion Atheist

Bolesław Bierut [bɔˈlɛswaf ˈbʲɛrut] ( listen) (real name Bolesław Biernacki, April 18, 1892 - March 12, 1956) was a Polish Communist leader, a Stalinist who became President of Poland after the Soviet occupation of the country in the aftermath of World War II.

Contents

Life

Damaged monument to Bierut formerly standing in Lublin, 2007
1951 East German stamp commemorative of the Treaty of Zgorzelec establishing the Oder-Neisse line as a “border of peace”, featuring the presidents Wilhelm Pieck (GDR) and Bolesław Bierut shaking hands over the new border

Bierut was born in Rury, now a part of Lublin, the son of a village teacher Henryk Rutkowski and his wife Barbara (hence his later adopted name "Bie(r)-rut"). In 1925 he went to Moscow to be trained at the school of the Communist International.

Beginning in 1933 he was a secret agent of Soviet military intelligence, the GRU. When the Communist Party of Poland was dissolved by Joseph Stalin in 1938, he was lucky in that he had been sentenced to 10 years in a Polish prison for his antistate political activity, and therefore could not travel to the Soviet Union (USSR), and undergo the Great Purge, which included the execution of most of the leaders of the Communist Party of Poland. After an amnesty from the Polish government in 1938 he settled down in Warsaw and worked as a bookkeeper in a cooperative.

After the outbreak of World War II Bierut fled to Eastern Poland (soon occupied by the Red Army) in order to avoid military service. Bierut would spend most of the war in the USSR, and was recalled to head the new Polish Workers' Party in 1943. He functioned as head of the Polish provisional quasi-parliament (State National Council, Krajowa Rada Narodowa), created by Soviet adherents, from 1944 to 1947.

Bierut was instrumental in the Soviet takeover of Poland and the installation of a Stalinist regime. From 1947 to 1952, he served in the People's Republic of Poland as President and then (after the abolition of the Presidency) Prime Minister. He was also the first Secretary General of the ruling Polish United Workers Party from 1948 to 1956.

Bierut oversaw the trials of Polish military leaders such as General Stanisław Tatar, along with 40 members of the Wolność i Niezawisłość (Freedom and Independence) organisation, and various church officials. Many more opponents of the new regime, such as "the hero of Auschwitz", Witold Pilecki, were sentenced to death in secret trials. Bierut signed many of Stalinist Poland's death sentences.

A prominent Polish historian and professor, Paweł Wieczorkiewicz, argued in recent times that it is not out of question that there could have been two persons claiming to be Bolesław Bierut. One of them, either the real person or his alias, was shot by an unidentified gunman in the French Hotel in Kraków, Poland in April 1945 or in 1947. According to this theory, the assassination was kept under secrecy by the authorities and the dead "Bierut" was replaced by his double within an hour.

Death

Bierut's grave in Powązki Cemetery, 2004

Bolesław Bierut died under mysterious circumstances in Moscow in 1956 during a political visit to the Soviet Union, shortly after attending the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union during which Nikita Khrushchev delivered his "Secret Speech", denouncing the personality cult and dictatorship of Stalin.

Bierut's death, which was speculated to be a poisoning or a suicide, symbolically marked the end of the era of Stalinism in Poland.

See also

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Władysław Raczkiewicz
(President of the Polish Republic in Exile)
Chairman of the State National Council
1944–1947
Succeeded by
Himself as President
Preceded by
Himself as Chairman
President of Poland
1947–1952
Succeeded by
Aleksander Zawadzki
(Chairman of the Council of State)
Preceded by
Józef Cyrankiewicz
Prime Minister of Poland
1952–1954
Succeeded by
Józef Cyrankiewicz
Party political offices
Preceded by
New Party
General Secretary of the Polish United Workers' Party
1948–1956
Succeeded by
Edward Ochab
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