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Poland's General Jaruzelski has died, aged 90

Poland's General Jaruzelski has died, aged 90
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Poland’s last Communist leader General Wojciech Jaruzelski has died at the age of 90.

General Jaruzelski had been in ill health for some time and had been hospitalised in recent years with serious health problems.

Jaruzelski made his mark on history when he declared martial law in a crackdown on the trade union opposition movement known as Solidarity.

The man behind that movement was Lech Walesa, an electrician by trade.

Walesa organised illegal strikes at the Gdansk shipyard in protest at poor living standards and to defend workers rights.

Jaruzelski later took control of the army and the Polish Communist Party and was named as prime minister.

Amid severe economic hardship, he banned protests and industrial action and jailed Solidarity’s leaders.

An estimated 100 people died during Poland’s 19 months under martial law.

The then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev began to shift towards changing the Soviet Union with his ideas of Glasnost Perestroika.

Finally it was the Soviets who imposed negotiating with Solidarity on the allied Polish military government.

The trade union was legalised again and free elections were organised. As a result, Jaruzelski had to give over power to his rival Walesa.

After the fall of communism,Jaruselski spent much of his time trying to define his legacy for himself.

He justified the declaration of martial law because he feared the Soviet Union would have invaded Poland to quash the union movement, resulting in a bigger blood bath.

But for the Solidarity generation, he was little more than a traitor.

Jaruselki spent two decades trying to stay out of jail for allegedly ordering the shooting of striking protesters in 1970, when he was Poland’s defence minister.

More than 40 people were killed during protests that year.

Jaruzelski spent his last years mostly at his home in Warsaw and in hospital, only rarely appearing in public.