Monday, Apr 27, 2015Monday, Apr 27, 2015

Poland's last communist leader Jaruzelski dies

Published on May 26, 2014 12:45 AM

WARSAW, May 25, 2014 (AFP) - General Wojciech Jaruzelski, Poland's last communist leader who tried but failed to crush the freedom-fighting Solidarity union, died Sunday aged 90, a hospital spokesman said.

Jaruzelski, who died in a Warsaw hospital with his daughter by his side, marked Polish history by trying to strangle the Soviet bloc's first free trade union with a brutal military crackdown on December 13, 1981.

But by 1989, he became the first communist leader to clear the way for democracy by agreeing to semi-free elections with Solidarity, led by the charismatic former shipyard electrician and Nobel Peace laureate Lech Walesa.

"He would have been a great man if he had lived in different era," Walesa once told AFP, calling Jaruzelski "a very intelligent man" who was "part of a generation from an unhappy time".

Enjoy 2 weeks of unlimited digital access to The Straits Times. Get your free access now!